Dog Gone It!
by Jill Hargan
John Gage stood leaning against the cinder block wall, his chest heaving, sweat pouring down his back and face. The thief had gotten away. Johnny had been a pretty fast runner in high school, and considered himself in better than average shape, but that damn purse snatcher had to have been running at Olympic speed. Jumping fences and hurtling over garbage cans hadn't slowed the guy down one bit, and Johnny felt more like it had been fifteen years since his last race, instead of merely five.
As Johnny worked at catching his breath, he clutched the woman's purse tightly in his hand. At least he'd gotten it back. That was the most important thing at the moment. Giving her back her life's savings would more than make up for the disappointment of losing the bandit. The winded paramedic drew in a long breath, wondering just how far back he'd have to walk to get to the squad. He'd kind of lost track of distances while he was running. He caught sight of the blood on his hand where he'd torn it on a nail.
Great. Now I get to go have a tetanus shot on top of running a cross country marathon.
The low growl of a dog froze him. There it was again - the warning, guttural snarl of an animal ready to attack.
Shit! That's all I need right now.
He turned slowly to see the large, angry German Shepard standing a few feet from him, his teeth barred menacingly.
"Oh, no..." Johnny groaned softly, then smiled weakly at the animal, trying to appear friendly.
He took a small, tentative step to the side towards the open, beckoning gate. "Nice doggie... good doggie." He tried to use his best, soothing paramedic tone, hoping the dog would know he meant it no harm, but the animal only crouched down lower, broadcasting his intention to spring.
Damn, I'm dead. I can't run, I can't sneak out. The minute I move an inch, he'll be on me like I'm Top Sirloin.
The paramedic swallowed hard, wondering when Roy and Ed might start to miss him and come looking for him. He'd reached the point where the embarrassment of being found like this wasn't going to bother him a whole lot. He just wanted out of this yard - with all his parts intact.
"What're you doin' to my dog?" a young voice asked and Johnny turned his head to see a small dark headed boy, no more than four standing inside the gate. He was wearing daffy duck pajamas and carrying a large bowl of dry dog food. He made no move toward the dog, but stood staring at Johnny with large brown eyes.
"Is that your dog?" Johnny asked brightly. The animal was still carrying on like it wanted to tear him apart. "Maybe if you feed him, he might cheer up a little bit." The paramedic gave the boy his biggest, friendliest grin.
"He on'y barks at strangers," the child stated, still unwilling to smile back. "Are you a stranger?"
"Me? No." Johnny tugged on his badge. "I'm a fireman... see?"
Now the boy reacted. He shook his head vigorously. "No, you're not. Firemen wear big helmets and boots and s'penders and they ride 'round in fire engines." He shifted his gaze to the front yard. "You don' have a fire engine."
The dog moved forward a bit, and Johnny backed up against the wall. "C'mon, kid... call off your dog."
The boy shook his head. "Huh-uh. He's jus' protectin' our back yard. That's why my dad bought 'im."
"And all I want to do is get out of your back yard," Johnny replied, his teeth clenched in an effort to stay patient, "before your mutt here eats me for breakfast."
"My dog don't eat people," the child informed him. "He eats Gravy Train."
"Is that what's in the bowl?"
The boy nodded his head.
"Well, why don't you give him his breakfast, then I'll leave your back yard and we'll all be happy." It certainly sounded reasonable to him.
The boy's big eyes moved between the dog and Johnny, suddenly unsure what to do. He finally resorted to the only thing he knew. He turned toward the house and hollered loudly.
Johnny allowed himself to breathe a bit easier. Once an adult came on the scene, the dog would be pulled off and he would be on his way.
The sliding screen door opened behind the still-snarling dog, and a tall, frazzled looking woman stepped outside.
"Timmy, I told you to fee the dog and..." She stopped as she saw Johnny standing there, and her face grew indignant. "Who are you and what are you doing in our yard?"
"He's trying to steal Rex?" the boy supplied.
"Uh... no, I'm not." Johnny held up his hands defensively. "I... uh, I just..."
"Are you the dog catcher?" the woman demanded loudly. She put her hands on her hips indignantly, and all the while the dog was continuing his agitated barking. "You have no right to come into our yard to take our dog. He has his tags and his shots and..."
"No, ma'am... hold on a minute," Johnny interrupted. He pointed to his badge again, hoping he'd have better luck convincing the mother than he'd had with the boy. "I'm a fireman... uh, actually a paramedic."
The woman scowled. "I don't know what a paramedic is and if you're a fireman, what are you doing here in my back yard all alone. Don't you guys travel in packs?" She glanced out to the front yard, just as her son had. "And where's your engine?"
Johnny sighed in frustration, still keeping one eye on the dog. "I don't ride on the engine, ma'am. I'm a paramedic. I ride in a rescue squad."
She looked him up and down, her face still unconvinced. Then her eyes landed on the purse in his hand, and she scowled even more darkly.
"Since when do firemen walk around carrying purses?" she demanded.
Johnny glanced down at the purse in his hand, sorry that they'd even stopped to try and help the old lady.
"I took this from a purse snatcher. He stole it from an old lady down the street. He ran through your yard and over your fence and..."
"I thought you said you were a fireman. Now you say you're a policeman? You can't seem to keep your story straight. How 'bout I call the police right now and turn you in?"
Johnny's shoulders slumped. "Why don't you just go do that," he replied, then nodded toward the dog, who was still eyeing him like he was the next best thing to Alpo. "Only, can you call off your dog first?"
"No way, Mr. Fireman-purse snatcher. Rex'll keep you right here while I check out who you really are." She smiled triumphantly and took her son by the hand. "I'm sure you won't be going anywhere." With that, she pulled the boy toward the open sliding door.
But as the boy disappeared into the house, and the bowl of dog food with him, Rex suddenly lost interest in guarding his prey. He abruptly stopped barking and turned in time to slip inside the house before the screen door closed.
Johnny could hear the sudden commotion. Not one to lose an opportunity, he made a dash for the gate. The last thing he heard was the crash of the bowl on the kitchen floor and the woman screaming at the dog.
He ran down the street until he was far enough away that he felt it was safe to slow down. He was out of breath again and the muscles in his legs were shot. It was just sinking in how close he'd really come to being the dog's breakfast snack. By the time he saw Roy standing next to the old lady, looking calm and rested and not a hair out of place, the only thing he could do was toss the purse to his partner without saying a word, and head for the squad to get a drink of water.
I always thought I was a dog person, Johnny pondered while he let the water run down his throat. But, after this, I'm giving serious thought to getting a cat.
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